Antedating of Speed (=Methamphetamine)

Sun Apr 14 23:36:22 UTC 2013

Thanks, Garson.  Are there any earlier uses of "meth"?  This article makes it seem that "speed" was the earlier term after all.  Of course, in reality they are essentially of equal age.

The genuinely older term is "pep pills," often used in the articles from this period but by then seemingly only a literary term.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of ADSGarson O'Toole
Sent: Sunday, April 14, 2013 3:29 PM
Subject: Re: Antedating of Speed (=Methamphetamine)

The article I cited is an AP article that was published with various alterations in different newspapers. It might contain other antedatings of drug-related terms. In some versions of the article some terms have been edited out.

> Here is "speed" a bit earlier.
> [ref] 1966 June 5, Cleveland Plain Dealer, "LSD, Marijuana Are 'Hip'
> at Colleges" by Bernard Gavzer, Page 23-A, Column 2, Cleveland, Ohio.
> (GenealogyBank) [/ref]
> [Begin excerpt]
> The source of amphetamines ("speed" is the current hippie term) and
> barbiturates could be just about any friendly medicine cabinet.
> [End excerpt]
> On Sun, Apr 14, 2013 at 1:42 PM, Ben Zimmer
> <bgzimmer at> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
>> Subject:      Re: Antedating of Speed (=Methamphetamine)
>> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
>> ----------
>> On Sun, Apr 14, 2013 at 12:10 PM, Baker, John wrote:
>>> The OED's earliest example of "speed" to mean an amphetamine drug,
>>> especially methamphetamine, is from the Avatar (Boston), September
>>> 1967.  It was used earlier in Nicholas von Hoffman, The 'Golden
>>> Dream' May Be Little More Than a Nightmare, Washington Post, Aug. 21, 1966, at E5, col. 1:
>>> <<It [sc. methedrine] is a powerful drug, an amphetamine, that
>>> starves the brain of oxygen and sends the soul scudding before misty
>>> winds.  They call it "Speed, "Battery Acid," "Fast Freak.">>
>> [...]
>>> It may be that the OED knows about this use of "speed" already,
>>> since its "meth" article cites to another article by von Hoffman in
>>> the Post from the same day.
>> I found the "meth" cite in 2004, but didn't catch the "speed" usage.
>> 42&I=-3
>> --bgz
>> --
>> Ben Zimmer
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -
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